Bedbound and suffering from chronic back pain, Michael Siciliano was at a loss as to how to reverse more than four decades worth of damage to his spine.
After working for more than 45 years in the stainless steel manufacturing industry, the only position Mr Siciliano could bare without experiencing excruciating in both legs was lying flat on his back.
“I was having trouble placing my fleet flat on the group and it was unbearable to [use] the stairs or to pick up soap off the bathroom floor,” he said.
For most of his life Mr Siciliano worked in conditions that would today be considered as hard labor – lifting, pushing and carrying almost everything in his metal shop. “It seemed [as easy as cake] lifting two of three tons of sheet steel from the back of a truck weekly, and store on the racks.”
“All good were loaded by hand onto a truck for delivery after completion; we carried on among the noisy conditions in this manner without using a forklift for over 22 years.”
When he was 49, Mr Siciliano’s wife Mary died. By that time the damage in his body was so severe he found it difficult to control movement from his waist down to his feet.
A specialist work order Mr Siciliano completed when he was 26-years-old for a client had contributed to the injuries, having damaged both his knees after bending water pipe across them.
Extensive neck and spinal x-rays taken at St John of God hospital revealed excessive damage to his spinal skeleton frame – there was a spur growing on the spine between the should blade, impinging on his optical nerve – this damage remains to this day.
Mr Siciliano’s daughter, Loretta, took the x-rays to a specialist at her work seeking a second opinion. Without being told whom the x-rays belonged to, the specialist assumed they were those of a 75-year-old man.
The doctor told Mr Siciliano to sell his business by he ignored this advice and continued to work for the next 10 years before selling the business at age 59.
In February 2004, Mr Siciliano could barely walk. A CT scan of his cervical spine, thoracic lumbar area and pelvic region revealed nerve entrapment caused by severe central canal narrowing, inflammation, degenerative changes in the hips, protruding bulges in discs and other damage.
In the surgery, the doctor took a long hard look at the scans and asked, “How old was your father when he went into a wheelchair?”
“The only person who can help you with your pain relief is a good physiotherapist who can give you a good massage.”
A year later on Corpus Christi Sunday while serving at a Mass, Mr Siciliano looked at the tabernacle during Consecration and said, “Jesus, you know I love you – I come voluntarily”
Reflecting back on the event, Mr Siciliano said what he said may sound normal but he did not premeditate those words.
“I realised later that the Holy Spirit interceded on my behalf,” he said.
That evening and over the next several months the pain slowly left him and he regained normal movement in his entire body.
Feeling well enough, he continued to lift objects against medical advice and reverted to his previous state of agonising pain.
Mr Siciliano knew of Father Jon Rea’s healing ministry and attended the Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral on October 12 this year.
“I wanted so much for the Lord to heal me again and felt positive that he would,” he said.
During the service Mr Siciliano focused on Fr Rea and became aware the palms of his hands felt on fire and knew the Holy Spirit was present.
“Fr Rea stood up and said many things about people in the audience with ailments who the Lord wished to heal,” he said.
“He also explained various things that fitted into the category of events that had transpired in my life.”
“He mentioned a man wearing a blue shirt and my daughter Amanda sitting next to me said, ‘that’s you Dad – you’re wearing blue.”
Mr Siciliano stood on the steps on the altar and explained to Fr Rea that what he had said fitted into his life and explained his back problems.
“As he listened he nodded and placed his hand on my lower back and prayed over me.”
“As he did I felt unbelievably better – but I lived with pain and needed time to awaken to what had taken place on this occasion.”
“This time the Lord chose to instantly heal me; my Lord, my God, my Savior has taken away my pain.”
Mr Siciliano remains pain free to this day.
Chronic back pain did not rival the pain Frank Riolo suffered from knowing he was so badly damaged he could not even hold his baby daughter.
For 20 years Mr Riolo had suffered constant and often agonising pain after an accident left him with chronic mid-thoracic back pain.
When his children were young he was unable to hold them for long periods of time without experience excruciating agony in his back.
To cure his injuries he consulted doctors, physiotherapists, chiropractors and acupuncturists, tried various therapies and took painkillers but to no avail.
In October this year, Mr Riolo met Fr Rea while at a Disciples of Jesus event where the priest spoke about healing and some of the ways it can occur.
During the meeting Mr Riolo realised his back pain was diminishing and at the end of the talk Fr Rea said a general healing prayer at which point his pain completely disappeared.
The following Sunday at Mass, Mr Riolo’s six-year-old daughter wanted him to pick her up.
Hesitating at first, he lifted her into his arms and found no pain.
As the embrace continued there was still no pain and he said his back felt light, as if something was reinforcing his spine.
After Mass he joined his family at a picnic and played freely with his children, experiencing no discomfort and continues to be pain free.
Maria Grazia Riolo
Baby Maria’s face and body were covered with scratches and scabs on a daily basis as the infant attempted to alleviate her pain caused by severe rashes.
She suffered from incurable severe eczema and despite the efforts of her parents Frank and Annalisa Riolo to try every cream and ointment recommended by doctors and chemists but the rashes continued.
The eczema only worsened when at six months of age Maria was switched to solid foods.
In mid-2011, Mrs Riolo arranged for Maria to see the leading specialist in eczema but the appointment was not for another three months.
During that time both parents recorded everything the child ate and became absorbed in finding a way to help their baby girl.
In August, Mrs Riolo took Maria and her other children to see Fr Rea and explained Maria’s problem to him.
Fr Rea prayed with the child and Mrs Riolo said she noticed an immediate improvement in rash on Maria’s hands.
A week later, Mrs Riolo took Maria too see the specialist who could find no trace of eczema and after hearing the story of faithful healing, had no medical explanation of the cure.
Listening to the world with only one ear was something George Vanderklau had to become accustom to after suffering deafness in his left ear for many years.
On October 12 Mr Vanderklau attended Fr Rea’s healing Mass at St Mary’s Cathedral.
“During prayer, Fr Rea mentioned there was a man wearing a blue shirt with deafness in his left ear and said the Lord wanted to heal him,” he said. “I claimed that.”
Mr Vanderklau attended a Disciples of Jesus gather two days later and felt what he described as a lightness in his left ear and soon realised he could hear clearly for the first time in years.
“I thank the Lord for the miracle, and Fr John and the prayer team for interceding with the Lord to grant me this miracle.”
The pain of someone we love often causes us to experience great pain ourselves and is what drove Jenny to seek the help of Fr Rea.
“When it’s a mother desperate for help to take away her child’s suffering, you find yourself in a church waiting in line to receive a special healing from a priest with a special gift,” she said.
“With so many people coming to see [him] for help I asked myself what made my pain any different to everyone else there.”
Jenny’s daughter Rebecca was suffering from cancer and about to go for her second round of treatment.
Fr Rea put his hands on Jenny’s shoulder and while she uncontrollably cried he looked at her, touched her hand and told her she would be writing her a letter.
Rebecca has been cancer-free for almost a year and Jenny wrote Fr Rea a letter thanking him for his work and blessed God.
“She has been through a lot of treatment and a stem cell transplant but has come through all this amazingly – her strength inspires us all, even her specialists,” she wrote. “My family and I were given a special gift that night, which I am blessed to have with me every day.”
“The gift of faith, hope, peace and inner strength are not just words on a page but mean so much more.”
“There is no gift more special than the health of a mother’s child.”
Hayfever and allergies plagued Michelle Firth for years and left her unable to fulfill her passion for gardening or enjoy a delicious meal containing garlic.
Since the birth of her fifth daughter about six years ago, Mrs Firth was unable to eat any food containing garlic or garlic powder.
The consequences of doing so resulted in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and acute stomach cramps, depending on how much she consumed.
He body would shake for hours on end and she would often be bedridden for several hours while her body flushed out the invading garlic substance.
From spring until the end of autumn she suffered another ailment, severe hayfever that left here with itchy eyes, palate and skin.
She was frustrated for most of the year while her nose became red and sore from the number of tissues she used to stop it “running like a tap”.
In two meetings with Fr Rea, Mrs Firth said she was cured of both ailments.
On October 14, Mrs Firth daughter encouraged her to approach Fr Rea for prayers regarding her garlic allergy. She said she felt incredibly peaceful when Fr Rea prayed with her and she claimed the healing.
Over the next few days Mrs Firth’s children encouraged her to eat garlic and trusting in God, she tried a traditional Spanish dish containing garlic prepared by her in-laws for her husband’s birthday.
“I ate the delicious lunch provided and had no complaints,” she said.
“I have since had garlic on a few other occasions and have been fine.”
In the second meeting while attending a women’s healing evening, Mrs Rea heard God told Fr Rea that he wanted to heal three people of hayfever.
“Having received the healing of my allergy to garlic the previous day, I didn’t consider that it was I who was to be healed – I had come to the evening to pray with others seeking healing for themselves,” she said.
She said Fr Rea detailed the people he would heal.
“One of three is left handed, and has a sore stomach since Friday, although the two conditions aren’t related,” he said.
At that moment Mrs Firth realised she was that person. “Considering it was more than a coincidence, I claimed that healing in faith and then went about praying with others,” she said.
“The next day it was sunny with a slight breeze and I spent four hours weeding my overgrown garden.”
“In the past such an activity would cause me to go through half a box of tissues, but I didn’t even use one once – another miracle occurred, God had healed me again.”